Thousands defy Sudan lockdown in latest anti-coup protests - Al Jazeera English

Security forces fire tear gas as protests mark the 11th day of big demonstrations since the October 25 coup.

Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades as tens of thousands of protesters opposed to military rule marched through Khartoum and the neighbouring cities of Omdurman and Bahri towards the presidential palace in the capital on Thursday.

The protests on Thursday were the 11th day of major demonstrations since an October 25 coup, which saw Abdallah Hamdok removed and then reinstated as prime minister. The demonstrators have demanded that the military play no role in government during a transition to free elections.

Sudanese authorities shut down mobile and internet services on Thursday and army, police and paramilitary patrols crisscrossed Khartoum's streets, while shipping containers blocked the Nile bridges that connect it with its northern suburbs and the twin city of Omdurman.

An army checkpoint with an armoured vehicle was seen stationed at one of the bridges that remained open.

Protesters heading towards a blocked bridge connecting the city of Bahri to the capital chanted: "As much as we sacrifice and die, we won't be ruled by the boot."

The Reuters news agency said said tear gas was fired towards the protesters in Bahri, near the bridge.

The bridges were blocked off during the last protests on December 25, when tens of thousands took to the streets.

Protesters opposed to military rule reached near the presidential palace that day, despite the extensive deployment of tear gas and a communications blackout. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said more than 200 people were injured during that protest, with six caused by live bullets.

At least 48 people have been killed by security forces since pro-democracy activists launched a campaign of street demonstrations against the coup, according to the Doctors' Committee.

A source from a telecoms company told the Reuters news agency the order to shut down the internet came from the Sudan National Telecommunications Corporation.

Activists use the internet for organising demonstrations and broadcasting live footage of the rallies.

Meanwhile, new surveillance cameras were installed on the main Khartoum thoroughfares along which demonstrators were due to march for Thursday's planned protests.

Reporting from Khartoum, Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall said the protests were smaller on Thursday than in recent days.

"The numbers are smaller today than on Saturday because of the heavy security arrangements including closing the bridges and doubling or tripling the number of security forces and they are using [large amounts] of teargas," Vall said.

Speaking from Miami, Cameron Hudson, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, said that since the October 25 military coup there have been "repeated miscalculations by the military both in terms of the power and perseverance of the protest movement".

"There have been more and more draconian efforts [by the military], essentially undermining whatever is left of the [political] transition at every stage," he added.

People march during a protest to denounce the October military coup, in Khartoum, SudanPeople march during a protest to denounce the October military coup, in Khartoum, Sudan [Marwan Ali/AP Photo]

The US embassy appealed for restraint from the government led by military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, which had been counting on a controversial November partnership deal with Hamdok to calm public anger.

"The US embassy reiterates its support for peaceful expression of democratic aspiration, and the need to respect and protect individuals exercising free speech," a statement said.

"We call for extreme discretion in use of force and urge authorities to refrain from employing arbitrary detention."

Activists have condemned the sexual violence attacks during the December 19 protests, in which the UN said at least 13 women and girls were raped or gang-raped.

Hamdok had been held under effective house arrest for weeks before returning to the prime ministerial post under the November deal, which promised elections for July 2023.

But the agreement was widely criticised as a gift to the military that gave a cloak of legitimacy to its coup, with pro-democracy protesters accusing Hamdok of "betrayal".

Sudan's sovereign council this week reinstated powers of arrests, detentions and seizures to the country's intelligence service.

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